The forgotten little brothers

Ferdinand, Wilkins, Rooney, Terry.  Legends in their own way I am sure you will agree.  But what if I was to tell you I was talking about Anton, Graham, John and Paul?  The siblings of Rio, Ray, Wayne and John?  Not quite in the legends bracket are they?  The same can be said for some clubs as well.  Whilst some towns and cities can boast two (or more) clubs playing at a professional level, other places in England have a definite big brother v little brother arrangement.

Norwich City v Norwich United
Last season was a good year for the two teams from Norwich.  Whilst City triumphantly returned to the land of milk and honey, beating Middlesbrough in the Play-off final at Wembley, United stormed to the Eastern Counties League Premier Division Title, finishing 26 points above 2nd place Godmanchester Rovers.  However, for a number of reasons the club declined promotion to the Ryman League.  United were originally formed as Poringland back in 1903, playing at the superbly named “The Gothic”.  They were renamed in 1987 and moved to their current home, Plantation Park back in 1990.  With United’s best run in the FA Cup coming last season when they made it to the Second Qualifying Round it may be some time before they meet in a competitive match.

Cambridge City v Cambridge United
Just a couple of seasons ago the two teams from Cambridge were separated by just one division as United were playing in the Conference Premier and City in the Conference South.  Today they are separated again by three divisions as United have returned to the Football League whilst City suffered enforced relegation in 2008 when their Milton Road ground failed a FA Inspection.  Worse was to come for City as they became embroiled in a legal battle over the ownership of the ground, which has now been demolished, forcing City to first groundshare with Newmarket Town, then Histon and now as of this season with St Ives Town. There will be playing in the Southern Premier League this season.

Oxford City v Oxford United
In recent times Lewes have actually played both City and United in competitive games, although few Rooks fans will want to remember our visits to the City of Spires as we lost in the Conference Premier back in 2009, then crashed out of the FA Trophy in November 2014 to Oxford City now playing in the Conference South as of this season after being shunted across from the North Division.  Last season City’s experiment of importing La Liga cast offs almost paid off as they finished just outside the playoffs, although the locals didn’t appear to warm to the experiment with crowds at Marsh Lane rarely broke the few hundred mark.  City were once managed by Bobby Moore, with Harry Redknapp as his assistant.

Lincoln City v Lincoln United
Whilst both Lincoln City and United play Non-League football, they are light years apart in terms of facilities.  Conference National City have the 10,000 capacity Sincil Bank with four almost new stands, perhaps a permenant sign of the excessive spending that caused their downfall out of the Football League, twice.  As each season passes, climbing out of the Conference becomes a harder and harder job, with last season’s 15th place finish a hard pill to swallow for many fans.  Travel West from Sincil Bank for a couple of miles and you will reach the leafy tranquillity of Ashby Avenue (or the more impressive Sunhat Villas & Resorts Stadium), home of The Amateurs, Lincoln United.  Currently played three levels below City in the Northern Premier League Division One South, their local derbies are against the likes of Goole AFC and Rainworth Miners Welfare in front of a hundred or so fans.

Ipswich Town v Ipswich Wanderers
In May 2013 Ipswich finally got their hands on a trophy in front of an excited crowd at Portman Road.  Ipswich Wanderers that it, not Town.  Wanderers won the Suffolk Senior Cup in that year on penalties in front of a crowd of 1,000.  Whilst The Tractor boys have been stuck in the Championship ploughed field for a decade, The Wanderers are on the up.  They were promoted back to the Eastern Counties League Premier Division in 2014 and finished last season in 9th place.  Their chairman is a familiar name to some – Terry Fenwick – the man who decided not to tackle Diego Maradona when he scored “that” goal in the 1986 World Cup Quarter-Final.  If only he did perhaps he could have now been chairman of Ipswich Town.

There are others of course.  Swindon Town may consider their local rivals to be Oxford United or Bristol City but Swindon Supermarine, the original works team from the Supermarine airplane company, will have a different opinion.  Southend United fans may think that their local rivals are Colchester United but what about Essex Senior League Southend Manor?  There was a story a few years ago about a disillusioned Newcastle United fan deciding to turn his back on St James’ Park and support Newcastle Town.  The only problem with this one is that the teams play 191 miles apart – Newcastle Town are based in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Does anything beat an away day?

There is something special about travelling around the country to watch your beloved team play. You get a totally different atmosphere at an away game to at your own ground as Thomas Rooney muses.

Punters that chase free betting offers will hopefully agree that the whole day is fantastic, getting up at a ridiculous time in the morning to get the coach/train or drive from one end of the country to the other.

There are a certain brand of fans that go to away games, everyone wants to be standing up, singing and really cares about the team.

As a Norwich fan, two away games that really stand out are Colchester United back in January 2010 and Tottenham in the season just gone.

Although these games were two divisions apart, both meant just as much. The Colchester game in League One was a match that we had been looking forward to for a long time.

At the time, both sides were in with a shout of automatic promotion and after they had dumped the Canaries 7-1 on the opening day of the season, it was payback time. There was also the added spice that Norwich had taken their manager at the time, Paul Lambert. Continue reading

Time for England to take a chance on Ruddy?

Thomas Rooney takes a look at the options England may have between the sticks next summer.

With all of the teams taking part in the European Championships next summer decided, it seems fair to say that more and more attention will be placed on odds for euro 2012 over the next few months.

Fair enough, the majority of people’s priorities are on club matters at the moment and rightly so. For example, if you asked me right now whether it would be my preference for Norwich to stay up or England to become European Champions next summer, there is only one answer and it involves a team in yellow and green being in the top flight next year.

This isn’t to say I am one of those ‘I don’t care about England’ types. Far from it. I am a passionate England supporter and always will be. The club v country row is of course one that can take up much discussion, but why do they have to be mutually exclusive?

I’m as passionate a Norwich fan as you can get, but will I be supporting England next summer and either be gutted or elated at their performance? Of course.

Anyway, let’s get back to the topic I actually wanted to talk about. Funnily enough, it combines Norwich and England with the secret ingredient a certain Mr John Ruddy.

The Canaries keeper has been incredible so far this season and in fairness, was excellent in the Championship last year too. The save late on against Liverpool at the weekend may well be his most high-profile success, but in truth, he has been on top of his game for a few months now.

So, to recap, this is a 25-year-old English goalkeeper excelling in the Premier League. What does this mean? Surely an England call-up? It seems fair to say that England aren’t blessed with options in the goalkeeper department at the moment. Continue reading

The Canaries prove too smooth for the Swans

Abi Davies travels up to Norfolk and the land of Partridge to see if there was any “Ah Ha” for the Swans.

Swansea went into Saturday’s match aiming to end their run of games on the road without picking up a point. Having faced mammoth challenges, coming up against 3 of the Premier Leagues highest calibre sides away from home so far this season, The Swans should have still felt optimistic that they could travel back to South Wales with more than just their pride in tact providing they gave a true account of themselves.

Swansea were bolstered by the return to full fitness of Leon Britton who came as the only change to the Swans side that beat Stoke a fortnight ago, having missed the fixture due to a recurrence of a back injury that plagued him in past campaigns.

Michel Vorm, Neil Taylor, Ashley Williams and Joe Allen all started for Swansea despite fears they may be a little jaded following their international excursions last week. Continue reading

Norwich getting accustomed to life in the Premier League

James Kent brings us a view from Carrow Road before tonight’s game against Sunderland.

So far in the Premier League Norwich City have played five games and have amassed five points for their trouble. The performances have genuinely been good, but the results have been affected by a combination of individual mistakes and refereeing decisions. Fortunately, though Norwich recorded their first victory last weekend against Bolton Wanderers to stop the pressure building up too much.

Paul Lambert will be relatively pleased with the start his side has made, but will know that his side must cut out the mistakes at the back, and will also hope for more favourable refereeing decisions going forward. It is though a learning experience for both the manager and the team, and the early indicators are that Norwich City is learning fast. Continue reading